Galapagos brings me to tears (part 2)

by Kim on September 4, 2012 · 56 comments

Read part one about our time in the Galapagos Islands here.

Galapagos Day 3- Espanola Island

Our days shape into routine. Breakfast at 7:15 a.m., two hours of hiking, then back to the boat to sail to our next destination. Lunch. More hiking. Snorkeling. Return to the boat to relax and read. Dinner.

Our seasickness has disappeared, thankfully.

Today we start off with a two-hour hike on Espanola to see iguanas, albatross and blue-footed boobies. The shoreline is stunning, the beach is pure white and the water is an unbelievable aqua marine. The sea is so clear I can see whole schools of fish darting between rocks many meters below.

We head to Sea Lion Beach where dozens of sea lions lie in the sand, warming themselves in the morning sun. They pay us no mind, barely stirring as we walk by. 

Hanging out with the sea lions

Beautiful Galapagos beach

After lunch we go snorkeling at a spot where sharks are commonly spotted. At first we see nothing but then, below us, three white-tipped sharks emerge from beneath an underwater rock overhang. SHARK! someone yells, and before I even know it I find myself frantically swimming towards them. If someone would’ve told me that one day I’d find myself deep in the ocean swimming after sharks I’d have told them they were crazy. And yet, there I was. 

Back on the boat I sit on the top deck watching the birds fly by. My mind wanders.

In one sense I can feel myself shifting to a slower, calmer pace of life. In the three months since Brian and I left home I have noticed subtle changes in both of us. We laugh more, worry less, and find ourselves continuously humbled by how much we don’t know. Traveling does this to you. 

Yet, on the other hand, I am constantly thinking about tomorrow. I think about how long we’ll be able to do this and what will happen when we get back. I wonder where we will live and what we will do. I know that traveling makes me happy but I don’t yet know how to sustain it. It scares me, the thought of losing this freedom.  The thought of stopping before I’m ready to stop.

One thing I hope to learn while we travel is how to live in the moment. I have always been terrible at this. But each day I find myself in these incredible situations and I want to enjoy them completely. I don’t want tomorrow’s worries to cast a shadow on today. I want to be all the way here, right where I am, now.

Galapagos Day 4- San Cristobal Island

After hiking, snorkeling and wildlife viewing we head to the town of San Cristobal where we visit the Galapagos National Park Interpretive Center. Afterwards we’re released to walk the town for a few hours. 

Brian and I set off with Debbie and Niels, the Dutch couple. The village is small and it appears to be the off-season. Most of the shops are closed. We see Laura and Karen, the two Australian girls, sitting at a picnic table in front of a restaurant with our guide. They are drinking cerveza and eating plantains y queso. We sit to join them. Soon, the rest of our group wanders by.

The tiny town of San Cristobal

Before long all sixteen of our boat-mates are sipping beer and telling jokes. We are in the center of town and a children’s dance rehearsal begins on the outdoor stage across from where we sit. Parents crowd around snapping photos. It is a familiar scene, we could be anywhere, but where we are is on a tiny island off the coast of Ecuador, downing beers with people from all over the world. The sun is setting on us and I feel giddy with joy. I don’t want to be anywhere else.

An outdoor dance recital on San Cristobal

Back on the boat we learn that it is one of the crew member’s birthdays and that there will be a small fiesta after dinner.

We sit in the main cabin and sing feliz cumpleanos to Juan. Someone brings a pitcher of mojitos from the kitchen. A crewmember moves the coffee table and rolls up the rug and suddenly dance music is blasting from the television.

We dance and dance, crowded into the tiny cabin, the boat rocks side to side. I don’t know how to salsa but I am spinning around the floor with Sebastian, who drives the dingy, and I follow his lead. These men know how to dance and they take such joy in it. I try my best to just let go. What else can I do? I throw my head back and laugh, swing my hips as we twirl around the room. The party lasts for hours. 

Galapagos Day 5- Santa Fe, Santa Cruz, and North Seymour Islands

The most incredible thing happens today. We are moving between islands in the late afternoon, most of us are on the top deck sunning and reading. Our guide climbs the stairs and yells at us GET UP! DOLPHINS! and out on the horizon we see water, like geysers, shooting up through blowholes.

We rush to the bow of the ship and as we pull near we see that the animals aren’t dolphins at all but a pod of pilot whales.

The whales, there are at least ten of them, swim right up to the boat. We are watching, captivated, leaning over the bow. The whales are so close that, when they surface, we are sprayed with the water from their blowholes.

It is obvious that these majestic animals know exactly what they are doing. They know we are here and they have come to greet us. For five minutes they swim from one side of the ship to the other. Each time they surface we cheer. There are Italians, Ecuadorians, Australians, Dutch and Americans on the boat and, right now, there is a common language among. It is one of awe and joy. Magnifico, I hear an Italian say. Certainly, it is.

The only picture I have of us watching the whales. Sorry for the poor quality but you can just make out the whales in front of the boat.

There is a kindness about these animals, an energy, I can feel it as surely as I can feel the sun warming my face. We are visiting their home and they have come to welcome us. They’ve come to say hello. It is the most amazing form of communication I have ever experienced with another species.

Before I left home a friend wrote to me a quote by Albert Camus: Live to the point of tears. The whales surface, blow, and then swim away for the final time. I wipe the tears away from my eyes and know I am doing just that. I hear one of the Italian men behind me. He is saying in English, his accent heavy, Thank you. Thank you. Everyone is clapping.

When we are sure that the whales have left us we disperse around the boat once again. Our guide finds me in the corridor and asks what I thought of the experience. Awesome, I say. It is perhaps the first time that I have used the word correctly. 

To be continued…

Read part 3 about our time in the Galapagos Islands here.